You must manifest complete love and affection toward all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others, but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God. -Abdu’l-Baha
The Student Who Taught His Teacher
In the far south of Persia in the lovely city of Shiraz, a beautiful baby Boy was born. He was Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad. From the beginning, He was unusual. He didn’t cry like most babies do. As He grew, He especially liked to spend time praying. He was gentle and calm. He never spoke crossly (an angry manner). He charmed everyone He met. When Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad was five, He started school. At school the boys were taught to read and recite from the Holy Qur’an. The teacher read the words to the little Boy and told Him to repeat the words. But the language of the Qur’an was different from the one He spoke at home. The Child asked what the words meant. The teacher pretended not to know, so the little Boy explained the meaning to His teacher.
The teacher was astonished at the wisdom of the Child. He took Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad back to His uncle and said that He was no ordinary child. This Child did not need a teacher. Instead, He should be the teacher. But His uncle sent Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad back to school. His uncle told Him to do as the other children did and listen to His teacher. Of course, Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad was obedient. Yet nothing could hide His great knowledge and wisdom. He continued to surprise His teacher. One day Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad heard some advanced religious students ask the teacher to answer a question. The question puzzled them. They did not understand it. The teacher was puzzled, too. He said he would study question and answer later. The little Child quietly explained the answer to the teacher and the students.
Who was this little Boy who amazed His teacher so? He was the Bab! (The Central Figures: The Bab, Vol. one)
- When and where was the Bab born?
- What is the Bab’s name?
- What are some of the ways we know that the Bab was not an ordinary child?
- What did the Bab especially like to do as a child?
- How was His character?
- How old was the Bab when He started school?
- What did the children study in school at the time of the Bab?
- What is the original language of the Qur’an?
- How did the Bab’s teacher feel about Him?
- Why did the Bab’s teacher take Him back to His uncle?
- Can you tell this story in your own words?
Spiritual Teachings of Baha’u’llah
The Nature of God
Have you ever looked up at the sky at night? The more you look, the more stars you see. Millions of stars. Each of those stars is billions of miles away. And there are even more stars that you cannot see!
The universe is so great that we barely understand it. But God created the universe and is much greater than any of it. He also created us. We cannot ever hope to understand who or what God is. He is the unknowable. God tells us that the whole universe is a training ground for our souls. In this universe we struggle to know God and to worship Him. God’s Messengers teach us how to struggle (The Garden of Baha’u’llah pp. 62-3)
Questions for discussion:
- Who is God?
- How is God “unknowable”?
- How can we know and love God?
- Is there only one God?
Abdu’l-Baha and the Poor Man
During ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to America, one of the Baha’i friends who was staying in the same hotel as ‘Abdu’l-Baha, narrated this story: I had a room in the same guest-house where Abdu’l-Baha was staying. Once, when I was looking out of my window, I saw Him pacing and dictating to His secretary. At that moment a poor man in shabby clothes passed the guest-house. No sooner had ‘Abdu’l-Baha seen him, than he sent his secretary to bring the man to Him. ‘Abdu’l-Baha stretched His arms out and welcomed him most warmly. The man was very poor and his clothes were very dirty. Nevertheless ‘Abdu’l-Baha turning His shining face to the man, talked to him for a long time, trying to make him happy. In the end the poor man smiled and his face beamed with pleasure.
Then ‘Abdu’l-Baha gave the man a searching look and said something I did not quite hear. It must have been something like “This man’s clothes are old and shabby – we must do something!” It was early in the morning and the street was still empty of people. ‘Abdu’l-Baha took off His cloak and gave the garment to the poor man saying, “God be with you.” Then He returned to His secretary and continued dictating, as if nothing had happened. I don’t know what the man was thinking as he just continued on his way. But I think after seeing so much loving kindness, in ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and His generosity in giving him His own clothes, he must have been surprised and moved. He must have caught a glimpse of a world full of love and kindness, which was new to him. During the years ‘Abdu’l-Baha was in prison, He thought always of others and not of Himself and would even offer His own bed to someone who had nowhere to sleep. And He was not happy to own two sets of clothing, knowing that some people had none.
So we can see that ‘Abdu’l-Baha always did just what He told others to do. He taught us to be kind to the poor, and this story shows how He did this Himself. He was the great Exemplar who always remembered and acted on Baha’u’llah’s holy words: “The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.” (Baha’u’llah)
Can you tell us the above story in your own words?
- Can you give examples of some virtues?
- What are some of the virtues Abdu’l-Baha practiced in the story?
- Did Abdu’l-Baha practice what He told others to do? How did He do that according to the story?
- How does Baha’u’llah expect us to treat the poor?
Virtue of the week:
“Be the essence of cleanliness among mankind…under all circumstances conform (follow or observe) yourselves to refined (elegant and cultured) manners…let no trace of uncleanliness appear on your clothes” -Bahá’u’lláh
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” -The Bible
“Naught… in the sight of God is more loved than purity and immaculate (perfectly clean, neat, or tidy) cleanliness.” -The Bab
- What is cleanliness?
- How important is cleanliness in the sight of God?
- Is cleanliness only a physical thing or is it also a spiritual and mental attitude?
- What can you do to keep yourself, your home, your school, and your city clean?